« ZurückWeiter »
when being at St. James's Garlick Hill church, I heard the service read so distinctly, so emphatically, and so fervently, that it was next to an impossibility to be inattentive. My eyes and my thoughts could not wander as usual, but were confined to my prayers; I then considered I addressed myself to the Almighty; and when I reflected on my former performances of that duty, I found I had run it over as a matter of form, in comparison to the manner in which I then discharged it. My mind was really affected, and fervent wishes accompanied my words. The confession was read with such a resigned humility, and the thanksgivings with such a religious joy, as made me feel those affections of the mind in a manner I never did before. To remedy therefore the grievance above complained of, I humbly propose, that this excellent reader, upon the next and every annual assembly of the clergy of Sion College, and all other conventions, should read prayers before them. For then those that are afraid of stretching their mouths, and spoiling their soft voice, will learn to read with clearness, loudness, and strength. Others that affect a rakish negligent air by folding their arms, and lolling on their book, will be taught a decent behaviour, and comely erection of body. Those that read fast, as if impatient of their work, may learn to speak deliberately. There is another sort of persons whom I call Pindaric readers, as being confined to no set measure; these pronounce five or six words with great deliberation, and the five or six subsequent ones with as great celerity: the first part of a sentence with a very exalted voice, and the lat.
ter part with a submissive one: sometimes again with one sort of a tone, and immediately after with a very different one. These gentlemen will learn of my admired reader an evenness of voice and delivery; and all who are innocent of these affectations, but read with such an indifferency as if they did not understand the language, may then be informed of the art of reading movingly and fervently, how to place the emphasis, and give the proper accent to each word, and how to vary the voice according to the nature of the sentence. There is certainly a very great difference between the reading a prayer and a gazette, which I beg of you to inform a set of readers, who affect, forsooth, a certain gentleman-like familiarity of tone, and mend the language as they go on, crying instead of pardoneth and absolveth, pardons and absolves. These are often pretty classical scholars, and would think it an unpardonable sin to read Virgil or Martial with so little taste as they do divine service. ; If those who err in these particulars would please to recollect the many pleasantries they have read upon those who recite good things with an ill grace, they would go on to think that what in that case is only ridiculous, in themselves is impious. But leaving this to their own reflections, I shall conclude with what Cæsar said upon the irregularity of tone in one who read before him; Do you read or sing? if you sing, you sing very ill.
ADVICE TO A YOUNG CLERGYMAN. HAVING heard that you are lately entered into holy orders, I cannot forbear offering my thoughts to you upon this new condition of life you are engaged in · I take it for granted, that you intend to pursue the beaten track, and are already desirous to be seen in a pulpit; only I hope you will think it proper to pass your quarantine among some of the desolate churches five miles round this town, where you may at least learn to read and to speak, before you venture to expose your parts in a citycongregation : not that these are better judges, but because, if a man must needs expose his folly, it is more safe and discreet to do so before few witnesses, and in a scattered neighbourhood. And you will do well, if you can prevail upon some intimate and judicious friend to be your constant hearer, and allow him, with the utmost freedom, to give you notice of whatever he shall find amiss either in your voice or gesture; for want of which early warning, many clergymen continue defective, and sometimes ridiculous, to the end of their lives. Neither is it rare to observe, among excellent and learned divines, a certain ungracious manner, or an unhappy tone of voice, which they never have been able to shake off.
I could likewise lave been glad, if you had applied yourself a little more to the study of the English language, than I fear you have done; the neglect whereof is one of the most general defects among the scholars of this kingdom, who seem not to have the least conception of style, but run on in
a fat kind of phraseology, often mingled with barbarous terms and expressions, peculiar to the nation: neither do I perceive that any person either finds or acknowledges his wants upon this head, or in the least desire to have them supplied.
Proper words in proper places make the true de. finition of a style. But this would require too ample a discussion to be now dwelt on : however, I shall venture to name one or two faults, which are easy to be remedied, with a very small portion of abilities.
The first is the frequent use of obscure terms, which by the women are called hard words, and by the better sort of vulgar, fine language; than which I do not know a more universal, inexcusable, and unnecessary mistake among the clergy of all distinctions, but especially the younger practitioners. I have been curious enough to take a list of several hundred words in a sermon of a new beginner, which not one of his hearers among a hundred could possibly understand ; neither can I easily call to mind any clergyman of my own acquaintance, who is wholly exempt from this errour, although many of them agree with me in the dislike of the thing. But I am apt to put myself in the place of the vulgar, and think many words difficult or obscure, which the preacher will not allow to be so, because those words are obvious to scholars. I believe the method observed by the famous lord Falkland, in some of his writings, would not be an ill one for young divines : I was assured by an old person of quality, who knew him well, that, when he doubted whether a word were perfectly intelligible or no, he used to consult one of his lady's chambermaids, (not the waiting-woman, because it was possible she might be conversant in romances) and by her judgment was guided whether to receive or reject it. And, if that great person thought such a caution necessary in treatises offered to the learned world, it will be, surely, at least as proper in sermons, where the meanest hearer is supposed to be concerned, and where very often a lady's chambermaid may be allowed to equal half the congregation, both as to quality and understanding. But I know not how it comes to pass, that professors in most arts and sciences are generally the worst qualified to explain their meanings to those who are not of their tribe: a common farmer shall make you understand, in three words, that his foot is out of joint, or his collar-bone broken; wherein a surgeon, after a hundred terms of art, if you are not a scholar, shall leave you to seek. It is frequently the same case in law, physic, and even many of the meaner arts.
And upon this account it is, that among hard words I number likewise those, which are peculiar to divinity as it is a science, because I have observed several clergymen, otherwise little fond of obscure terms, yet in their sermons very liberal of those which they find in ecclesiastical writers, as if it were our duty to understand them; which I am sure it is not. And I defy the greatest divine to produce any law either of God or man, which obliges me to comprehend the meaning of omniscience, omnipresence, ubiquity, attribute, beatific vision, with a thousand others so frequent in pulpits, any more than that of eccentric, idiosyn.